On the passing of Leslie Feinberg

When other women would ask me about what books to read my first go to book was always “Stone Butch Blues” by Leslie Feinberg.  Leslie was a pioneer in the Butch world. To me she was the Butch of all Butches…King of the Kingdom.  In 1993 when Stone Butch Blues hit the shelves many of us snatched it up and read it cover to cover a couple of times.  Someone had finally written about what it was like to be Butch in the 80’s/early 90’s and done it with finesse and accuracy.  The book was all inspiring to many Butches around the world.  We finally had a sort of doctrine.

Leslie Feinberg died on Nov. 15, 2014 after a long battle with cancer. Having made the choice to move from Butch to Trans* in the journey, Leslie faced many obstacles and adversity, even among the LGBT community itself.  I met hir once at a conference and was inspired to write my own stories because of her and her bravery and courage in writing Stone Butch Blues and hir living an authentic life despite it’s difficulties.  Feinberg described hirself as a “white, working class, secular Jewish, transgender lesbian.” Feinberg preferred the use of “ze/hir” pronouns.

As a proud Butch I was personally inspired by Leslie’s story of Jess, the Butch in Stone Butch Blues.  This book was very eye opening for me, and showed me that I was not alone in my feelings and in who I was in this world.  It was also my first introduction to Butch-Femme culture and dynamics for the most part.  It’s because of hir and other gifted Butch writers that I am brave enough to write my own stories today, and because of them I am out, proud and authentically Butch.

Stone Butch Blues is a novel written by transgender activist Leslie Feinberg. The novel won the 1994 Stonewall Book Award. It tells the story of a butch named Jess Goldberg, and the trials and tribulations she faces growing up in the United States before theStonewall riots. Published in 1993, the novel became an underground hit before surfacing into mainstream literature. It is generally regarded as a groundbreaking work on the subject of gender, and it is one of the best-known pieces of LGBT literature. The novel is a prominent portrait of butch and femme–culture in the late 1960s, as well as a coming-of-age story of the character Jess: a Jewish, working-class butch who runs from home as a teenager and becomes a part of gay subculture.Stone_Butch_Blues_cover

Feinberg’s last words were reported to be “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.

Thank you Leslie, and Rest in Peace.

Advertisements

5 Replies to “On the passing of Leslie Feinberg”

  1. Thank you, Ang MB. What an amazing life Leslie led, very committed to her beliefs and out there and open and controversial and fearless. I read the obituary written by her spouse, Minnie Bruce Pratt and was blown away. Of course I knew part of it but the whole story is mind boggling and very inspirational.
    I should know this and I am a bit embarrassed that I cannot wrap my mind around this and understand it. But I figure if I am confused perhaps others are as well. Leslie was a stone butch trans, and Minnie used the pronouns “she/her” in the obituary. I am trying to understand which direction trans was Leslie, female born trans male? or vice versa? I hope this does not come across as offensive as I am very respectful of our trans sisters and brothers.
    Sincerely.

    1. I’d guess that the use of “she/her” is to reflect their life together, and that Leslie knew that and wanted it respected in Minnie Bruce’s choice of pronouns. Otherwise “ze/hir” is correct. As well as “he/him”. It’s not so straightforward, though you’re right in your first assumption as to Leslie’s “direction”, in as much as it’s possible to be right.

      Here’s something Minnie Bruce wrote nearly 20 years ago:

      “Meeting you for the first time over curried chicken and masala dosa, she is socially appropriate to refer to you as him. Meanwhile, you are saying that you are a woman and transgendered, that your masculinity is a range of gender expression that should be available to all women, as femininity should be to men. You insist that you are him and also her. When I enter the conversation, I call you both by your given names to be respectful. The either/or pronouns suddenly are the jaws of a steel trap snapping shut on infinities that exist where body, self, sex, gender, the world, and lunch intersect.”

      From Lunch, in S/he (Firebrand Books 1995)

  2. I agree with you that the community and the world lost someone tremendously precious and important but i have to disagree with part of what you wrote. Leslie didn’t die of cancer, zie died of lyme disease and other tick related illnesses! This is from her obituary! “Leslie Feinberg, who identified as an anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish, transgender, lesbian, female, revolutionary communist, died on November 15. She succumbed to complications from multiple tick-borne co-infections, including Lyme disease, babeisiosis, and protomyxzoa rheumatica, after decades of illness.”

    In trying to help lesbiannefree, while Leslie identified as Trans and at one point in time was on T and identified as a trans male…later (maybe for medical reasons, I dont know for sure) zie stopped taking T and went back to more of a butch, masculine female but trans identified in the broader sense! Or at least this is the way I understood it and remember it when zie talked about it!

    Back to my personal feeling and reactions….I also remember Stone Butch Blues as being fundamental for me! When I came out in 95, it was one of the first books I read. That and Shar Rednour’s Femme Bible were my biggest influences on my foray into being femme in this new scary world I had entered! I was privileged to get to meet Leslie once years ago and my biggest memory is hyr talking about Minnie Bruce! I got to spend time with hyr after a speech at a GLBT center and happened to mention that I recently got a cookbook of lesbian authors and Minnie Bruce was in it. When Leslie asked what recipe Minnie Bruce shared and I replied biscuits (i think). Leslie looked at me chagrined and said, “Ya know, she never would share that one with me!” I figured there was going to be an interesting discussion when zie got home! 😉 Leslie was amazing and I know I’m only one of many who mourn hyr passing for many years to come!
    RIP Leslie, you will be remembered!

    1. Thank you for the correction! I was misinformed, and thought it was cancer that she was fighting for so long. I too had the privilege of meeting Leslie at a conference in ’94 in Atlanta. And it was my first LGBT read as well. Ah the memories, and thanks for sharing about Minnie Bruce…she’s a character all on her own! Again, thanks for commenting, and correcting my error! 🙂 ~MB

  3. When Leslie lived in New York, and was active in Worker’s World, I would see hir at a lot of NYC demonstrations. Very dedicated, and very political, but also accessible and sweet in hir own butch way.

    No apologies for how ze lived hir life. No assimilation.

Leave Your Feedback!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s